A light at the end of the tunnel for the shortfin mako, and other ICCAT 2021 outcomes

Content Image

Sciaena attended the 27th annual meeting of ICCAT, the International Committee for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, that manages the stocks of both tuna and other pelagic species within the Atlantic Ocean region, that took place between the 15th and the 23rd of November of 2021, through an online format. Although some decisions fell short from what was expected, it can be considered a successful year for the institution, with the approval of several management and conservation measures for several species, among which lies the North Atlantic shortfin mako (Isurus oxyrinchus) stock.

The expectations were high for this meeting. Among different topics, the ban on North Atlantic shortfin mako retention was the most urgent action to be taken, due to the fragile state of this stock, as a result of high pressure from the longline fishing fleet, which predominantly targets swordfish and blue shark. The biggest achievement was indeed relating to this stock. Throughout the years, ICCAT’s scientific committee (SCRS)  has recommended a ban on retention for the mako, which means every caught animal has to be promptly released, along with other mitigation measures. After a long period without effective conservation measures, ICCAT has finally adopted a recovery plan for the North Atlantic stock of this species, where retention on board of shortfin mako is prohibited, during the next two years and aiming for total mortality below 250 tonnes, giving this stock the highest chance of recovery of any other stock managed by ICCAT. This is great news for such an endangered species, but requires thorough implementation and monitorization to ensure the enforcement of these new measures.

The decisions on bigeye tuna, one of the most important species for the Portuguese fleets, particularly for Madeira and Azores, were also closely followed by Sciaena. Unfortunately, the member states were not able to approve new and decisive measures for the conservation of this species, and of other tropical tuna species – such as the skipjack tuna and the yellowfin tuna – as a way to fix the imminent problems these are facing, and ensure sustainable management. Although the outcome of this panel was to maintain the measures in place, this does not guarantee sustainable exploitation of this species nor the mitigation of juvenile mortality, nor was it possible to update on the quota attribution in order to keep captures below sustainable levels. We anticipate many complex meetings in 2022 on this topic, due to this outcome.

A key highlight of the 27th ICCAT annual meeting was the establishment of a strategy for albacore (Thunnus alalunga) captures, a management tool that defines the quantities that are allowed to be captured without putting the stock’s conservation state in danger. This is the first stock for which this measure has been implemented.

Concerning other stocks managed by ICCAT, conservation measures for the east and west populations of the Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) were agreed upon, which include a compromise for a transition towards harvest strategies.

Other positive outcomes of this meeting include a new measure on transhipment, several measures with the intent of stopping illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fisheries, and the creation of several new workgroups to implement electronic monitoring and to fight against forced labor. 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Previous Post
Sciaena attends...


Next Post
Happy Holidays...